Short-sellers and hedge funds, though sometimes shadowy, are sometimes seen as the smartest guys in the room. They did their homework and will bet their capital against the crowd. It's not the most popular way to go, but the rewards can be quite lucrative.

On Motley Fool CAPS, we have our own brand of leading analysts who found the chinks in a company's armor and correctly called its fall. "Underdogs" are investors who earned 100 or more CAPS points correctly predicting that one or more stocks would underperform the market.

Let's look at some of the recent calls these All-Star investors have made. Yet just as hedge fund operators don't always go short, we're going to look at recent Underdog picks no matter which way they've been called.

Underdog

Member Rating

Company

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Call

goldminingXpert

100.00

Patriot Coal (NYSE:PCX)

****

Outperform

tenmiles

100.00

Immucor (NASDAQ:BLUD)

****

Outperform

TigerPack

99.98

Northgate Minerals (NYSE:NXG)

*****

Underperform

AirForceFool

99.98

Infinera (NASDAQ:INFN)

*****

Outperform

pokeytax

99.97

Raser Technologies (NYSE:RZ)

*

Underperform

Going short is risky, since not every short sale goes as planned. Stock prices can be irrational longer than you have money to stay in the game. So don't use this as a list of stocks to sell or buy, but rather as the launch pad for further research.

Underdogs still wag their tails
Investors who thought bulk shipping contracts were virtually inviolable were hit by a rogue wave when Excel Maritime (NYSE:EXM) announced plans to pay only half the rate it had contracted for earlier this year. Investors were also burned when ReneSola (NYSE:SOL) customers reneged on their wafer purchase commitments last year. And specialty-chemicals maker Huntsman was forced to take Hexicon to court to try to force a merger after Hexicon's owner got cold feet over the acquisition. CapitalSource was similarly deaf to TierOne's pleas to consummate a merger.

Many times, such actions leave companies with little choice but to go to court, in an attempt to force business partners to honor the terms of their contracts. Patriot Coal is finding out that its contracts were apparently written in invisible ink, and now it has to play hardball with its customers. While noting that it's willing to work with metallurgical coal customers who need to defer shipments because of the economy, it's willing to take stronger measures to enforce its rights. Patriot has filed a demand for arbitration against a metallurgical coal customer to enforce the company's contractual rights and recover damages for failure to perform under two legacy-priced coal supply agreements during 2009. The customer's failure to perform caused disruptions in Patriot's operating and shipping schedules.

Maybe it's the mini-boom of analysis suggesting we're now facing a period of "peak coal" that has CAPS member weiteck concerned, despite Patriot Coal's fairly stable financials:

Most of [Patriot's] coal mines are located in Central Appalachian. Higher costs of mining in these tough regions. Its coal [is] of poor thermal quality with 2/3 noncompliant coal. This is certainly not a good sign at least during [the] Obama administration. About 20% of its revenue [comes] from metallurgical coal. The use of such coal in US steel industry for furnace coke is declining because of better technology. This is not a good sign [for] PCX. They may have to sell more to [the] overseas steel industry.

The average stock in the CAPS Coal sector has lost more than 17% over the past month, making it one of the 50 worst-performing sectors. But Patriot Coal has done even worse, having lost more than 38%, as the market no doubt disliked the dilutive effects of its 12 million-share stock offering.

There's no need to fear ...
When underdogs have their backs against the wall, that's when they can shine their brightest. But it takes more than a few All-Star picks and a quick paragraph to make buy or sell decisions. So start your own research on these stocks on Motley Fool CAPS, where your opinion can still save the day. While you're there, you can read a company's financial reports, scrutinize key data and charts, and examine the comments your fellow investors have made -- all from a stock's CAPS page. There's more to CAPS than you might think.

Infinera is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. The Fool owns shares of CapitalSource and Infinera. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey owns shares of Huntsman has no financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings. The Motley Fool has a stress-free disclosure policy.