Sometimes the runner that sprints to win the day is the very one that lagged the pack through the early going.

Although shares of Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY) have appreciated some 170% since I suggested back in October 2008 that Yawanna Have Yamana, compared to golden multibaggers like IAMGOLD (NYSE: IAG) and Eldorado Gold (NYSE: EGO) ... Yamana has actually been a noteworthy laggard.

In fact, over the past two years of this multiyear marathon, Yamana has been bringing up the rear. Even titans like Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX) and Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM) have fared better over that period, which is definitely not something I thought I'd be saying two years ago.

Like a well-conditioned athlete that's picking its moment to surge, however, Yamana still appears poised to reward patient shareholders with relative outperformance over many of its gold mining peers as this bull market matures. Despite the palpable frustration on Wall Street with Yamana's less-than-stellar earnings result for the fourth quarter of 2009, I maintain that this low-cost leader is one high-grade producer that yawanna keep around.

A sequential production decline -- associated with operational hiccups at El Penon that will persist through the first quarter of 2010 -- brought Yamana's yearly total to 1.02 million gold equivalent ounces (GEOs). Even adding production from discontinued operations to tally 1.2 million ounces, Yamana's production remains well shy of its previously targeted pace of achieving 2 million ounces by 2012. The revised plan sees just 1.5 million ounces by 2013, highlighting the more justifiable portion of the market's frustration.

Also dampening investor enthusiasm is Yamana's persistent exposure to derivative and currency-related losses that mercilessly chip away at the bottom line. In the fourth quarter, those hits included some $45.2 million from future income tax adjustments, derivative losses, and foreign exchange losses. Derivative losses from miners like Yamana and Kinross Gold (NYSE: KGC) have been a tough pill to swallow for gold investors, but perhaps those items might be better received without an added $15.4 million in executive bonuses and stock-based compensation.

As a longtime Yamana shareholder, I share in the multiple disappointments of these reduced production targets, operational snags, and annoying kinks in the bottom line. However, I believe that the market has gone entirely too far in discounting the shares for these well-documented ills. Beyond a hopeful development pipeline that includes four new mines approved for construction, Yamana is eyeing substantial reserve growth in 2010 and investing some $80 million in exploration. I stand by my recent selection of Yamana Gold as the best bargain among gold miners ... a designation with which 73% of 1,100 readers responding to our Motley Poll agreed. In case some Fools are having second thoughts, I truly believe that yawanna keep Yamana.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.