As an investor, it doesn't pay to follow the crowd.

Jumping into a stock because your rich neighbor did, or because you heard about it from your friend's uncle who used to work on Wall Street, or because CNBC has been talking about it nonstop is a recipe for disaster.

If there's one thing I've learned as a stock analyst, it's that any stock can be gussied up to sound like a world-beater. If there's a second thing I've learned, it's that being a smart person doesn't make you a good investor.

In the hands of a smart person with good communication skills, the never-were and never-will-be stocks sound like tickets to instant fortune. The ancient Greek philosophers made the distinction between rhetoric and knowledge. The former is convincing; the latter is true.

That's why we factor in track record in our Motley Fool CAPS community. We invite everyone to give stocks an outperform (i.e., a "buy") or underperform rating (i.e., a "sell") in CAPS. We then use those opinions to calculate a rating for each stock -- from one to five stars (five being the best). But -- and this is a big distinction -- we give more weight to the opinions of folks whose picks have performed well in the past.

The No. 1 buy in energy
So, with that methodology as prelude, I present to you the top 10 energy stocks based on the number of CAPS members who have rated the stock an outperform. Only stocks garnering a five-star rating are included.       

Company

Market Capitalization

Outperform picks

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK)

$14.3 billion

6,933

*****

Transocean (NYSE: RIG)

$18.1 billion

5,907

*****

ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP)

$87.2 billion

5,165

*****

Valero Energy (NYSE: VLO)

$10.3 billion

4,361

*****

Petroleo Brasileiro (NYSE: PBR)

$167.1 billion

4,004

*****

National Oilwell Varco (NYSE: NOV)

$17.2 billion

3,076

*****

Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB)

$74.9 billion

2,694

*****

Atwood Oceanics

$1.8 billion

2,319

*****

Noble Corporation

$8.7 billion

2,311

*****

Devon Energy

$28.7 billion

1,871

*****

Source: Motley Fool CAPS as of August 10, 2010.

More CAPS members think natural gas player Chesapeake Energy is a buy than any other five-star energy stock. Do you think a different stock deserves to be the No. 1 buy? Make your thoughts known in CAPS by clicking here. Or just go there to do further research on one of these 10 stocks.

As for me, I'm rating Gulf-spill-battered contract driller Transocean an outperform right now. See my CAPS profile here.

Anand Chokkavelu owns shares of Transocean. Chesapeake Energy is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Atwood Oceanics and National Oilwell Varco are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Petroleo Brasileiro is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy, and Noble. The Fool has a disclosure policy.