At The Motley Fool, we have our fun with the Wall Street analysts.

We mock their pinstripe-and-wingtip attire. Their multimillion-dollar bonuses. And, not unrelatedly, their failure to recognize the tech bubble -- or, worse, their recognizing it, and then putting lipstick on the pig and pimping it to the individual investor. What's more, their ceaseless stream of upgrades and downgrades, sometimes on one and the same stock, and just days apart, makes Jim Cramer look like a poster boy for the "long-term-buy-and-hold" movement.

As such, it may look a bit out of place for us to introduce this newest occasional feature: This Just In. Here, I'll be taking an ad hoc magnifying glass to some of the hottest analyst upgrades and downgrades of the hour.

Isn't that a little hypocritical?
Guilty as charged -- if that were all I'll be doing. Because the fact of the matter is that an analyst's upgrading or downgrading a stock means little when viewed in isolation -- all the more so when you consider the heft of the firms doing the "analyzing." When a major brokerage firm issues a downgrade, the mere publication of the news often suffices to spark a selloff and "proving" the analyst right -- in the short term.

What's more significant is the analyst's record over the long term. And that's what we'll be focusing on in this column.

Mr. Market? Meet Mr. CAPS.
With the debut of Motley Fool CAPS, the Fool's new tool for rating everything from stocks to investors to analysts to the long-term durability of the Toyota Corolla (give us some time on that last one), we're taking a magnifying glass not just to the short-term meanderings of Mr. Market's mind. With CAPS, we'll also be tracking the long-term performance of Wall Street's best and brightest -- and its worst and sorriest, too.

And speaking of the best ...
Yesterday, some of Wall Street's finest weighed in on the prospects of chicken wing-hawker and Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD). First up, Cowen & Co. downgraded the stock to "neutral" on the theory that an increase in state-law minimum wages, when combined with rising prices for chicken wings, will cut into profits. However, long-term, Cowen still likes the company -- and it should. Since it recommended Buffalo Wild three years ago, the stock has gained 120% and made Cowen look very smart indeed.

And speaking of analysts who like the company but downgrade it anyway, KeyBanc got caught talking out of both sides of its beak yesterday. At the same time as KeyBanc downgraded the stock from "aggressive buy" to merely "buy," the firm increased its price target by more than 10%. Hardly sporting, considering that, like Cowen, KeyBanc has enjoyed fantastic returns on its initial endorsement of the stock -- up 67% in the year and a half the firm has covered it.

So whom should we be listening to, out of these two "name" firms? Let's turn to CAPS to find out. There we see that both Cowen and KeyBanc -- or rather, their avatars -- both score in the 99th percentile, sitting amongst the rarefied elite of CAPS "players." Herewith are a few of the picks that got these firms where they are today.

Cowen Says:

CAPS Says:*

Cowen's Pick Beating S&P by:

Citi Trends (NASDAQ:CTRN)



34 points

Tuesday Morning (NASDAQ:TUES)



10 points

KeyBanc says:

CAPS Says:*

KeyBanc's Pick Beating S&P by:

Markel (NYSE:MKL)



26 points




54 points

*Out of a possible rating of five stars.

So there you have it, folks. To sum up, one very good stock picker is neutral on Buffalo Wild. A second very good stock picker has a mild case of schizophrenia but basically likes the company over the long term.

As do we. At Motley Fool Hidden Gems, we've recommended buying Buffalo Wild not once, not twice, but three times -- and each of those recommendations is "in the green," garnering returns of 114%, 90%, and 55% for our members.

What do you think? Venture over to CAPS to share your thoughts. Playing CAPS is entirely free.

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 23 out of nearly 21,000 raters. The Fool has a disclosure policy.