For months now, I've been using Motley Fool CAPS to evaluate the Wall Street wizards who rate stocks, and gauge the likelihood that those ratings will pan out. In recurring columns like "Get to Know a Guru," we meet the unsung heroes (and villains) of Wall Street. In "This Just In," we put the experts to the test, determining whether their upgrades and downgrades are worth the virtual paper they're printed on.

Today, I want to step back and see the big picture. Using the full breadth of CAPS to take a snapshot of the Wall Street Wise, I'll lay out for you who's hot, who's not, and overall, whether these analytical hotshots are smarter than a fifth-grader.

Newsflash: They're not
We often hear the statistic: "80% of mutual funds underperform the market." But until now, it's been hard to fact-check that bit of commonly accepted Foolishness. Fortunately, CAPS does something nearly as good. It records every stock pick made by 169 professional stock pickers, from professional talking heads like Jim Cramer to financial bastions such as Citigroup. It tracks the recommendations' performance, and most importantly, it records whether the picks are beating or lagging the S&P 500's return. So how are the experts doing? Drumroll, please ...

More than half of them are lagging the market. Out of 169 ranked professional players, 92 have sub-50% "accuracy" records on their picks.

Wall Street wall of shame
Fasten your seat belts, folks, because I'm pulling no punches today. Meet "Wall Street's Dirty Half-Dozen" -- the six least-accurate institutional investors, along with their worst recommendations (that they've made public):

Wall Street Worst Firm

Accuracy

One Especially Bad Recommendation

How Bad?*

Henley & Company

10%

Akamai (Nasdaq: AKAM)

17 points

Cathay Financial

14%

Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL)

46 points

Punk, Ziegel & Company

26%

Lehman Brothers (NYSE: LEH)

30 points

Charter Equity

27%

RF Micro Devices (Nasdaq: RFMD)

42 points

Dawson James

27%

OraSure Technologies  (Nasdaq: OSUR)

16 points

Collins Stewart

28%

Yingli Green Energy  (NYSE: YGE)

35 points

*Which is to say, how badly is this active pick underperforming the S&P 500?

As you can see, even the "best" firms named above guess wrong seven times out of 10. What's more, one denizen of this list holds the honor of having appeared in each of the last five editions of this column. By now, I think we can safely say that Cathay Financial is pretty consistently bad. (And several of the other firms have made repeat appearances.) So pardon my bluntness, but I think you're better off flipping a quarter than paying these analysts for investing advice.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics
Confession time: The numbers above certainly suggest that the old truism about mutual funds, and the professionals who run and market them, holds true. But in a new service like CAPS (still in beta, by the way), there are bound to be bugs in the system.

Some such "bugs" are intentional, such as our decision not to permit ratings on "half-penny" stocks with market caps of less than $100 million, or stock prices under $1.50 per share. Some are not -- glitches in the system which may unintentionally affect the statistics that CAPS generates. So before the analysts named above cry bloody murder, let me extend the following olive branch: We're listening.  

If you've got a gripe about your rating, and the facts to back it up, we'll work with you to fix the problem. Drop our CAPS feedback board a note, and we'll give your arguments a fair hearing. On the other hand, if you're just mad because we're highlighting statistics that you'd rather not advertise, there's not a lot we can do for you.

Well, actually, there is one thing. Everyone is welcome to subscribe to Motley Fool Stock Advisor, where the majority of our active picks are beating the market. Not all of our picks are winners, but our portfolio is currently beating the market by an average of 39 points. This offer gets you full access free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 821 out of more than 100,000 players. Akamai is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.