This column was originally published on RealMoney on Oct. 3 at 10:14 a.m. EDT. It's being republished as a bonus for readers.

For baseball fans, the greatest two weeks of the year are just around the corner. That's the start of the major league playoffs, when the networks broadcast two or three high-stakes, high-energy games per day until the American and National Leagues produce a champion that they can send on to the World Series.

In a way, the stock market also begins its own brand of playoffs this month. On the one hand, we have the herd of third-quarter earnings reports coming up. And on the other, we have a period in which the year's best-performing stocks begin their duel for the market championship.

Although there are no special records kept for the best-performing stocks of calendar years, we know empirically that the stocks that are up 50% to 200% or more by this time of the year are the ones that end up 300% or more by the end. It doesn't take a degree in mathematics to figure this out, of course, but it's worth observing that stocks with the best momentum coming into the fourth quarter are piled into by portfolio managers seeking to pump up their own annual returns.

Very often, these stocks deserve the attention, because what has driven them to the strong nine-month returns are earnings and revenue growth that was unappreciated prior to the start of the run. And occasionally, those runs are accompanied by continued low valuations as price fails to keep up with those improving earnings.

An example of latter sort of "value momentum" is Allegheny Technologies ( ATI), a specialty metals processor that we recommended on Sept. 19. It's up 43% for the year and going strong into the end of the year as its markets -- including oil and gas rig makers, power plant builders and airplane makers -- are in the sweet spot of the global economy today. All of its price multiples are low, and growth prospects are high.

That's a great combination. Another company along these lines is Titanium Metals ( TIE), which is even cheaper on all metrics despite a 225% gain so far this year. I explained the story in a RealMoney piece back in March, when the price was half the current level. It continues to be under accumulation by insiders, and it isn't covered much by analysts, in part because of a convoluted ownership structure. Just suffice it to say that the fundamentals and chart are strong. The chart may be a little too elevated right now in the $39 area, so I'd prefer it around $37.

Amid the high level of interest in foreign companies of late, and in anything related to mining, value momentum players could also consider Metso ( MX), a Finnish provider of heavy machinery and services to the paper, mining and metals industries. Sales are strong, its returns are improving, valuation is reasonable, and chart is great. Shares are up 65% so far this year, but they look like they will have a good fourth quarter. Consider stepping in under $25.

If you prefer to focus on domestic small-caps along these lines, consider Columbus McKinnon ( CMCO), which is up 172% this month yet still sports a P/E of 0.67 and a price/sales multiple of 13, both of which are below the market and its peers. It's been in business for more than 130 years, and it makes materials-handling equipment such as hoists and cranes. Growth will be the 15% to 20% range, and it will probably be the type of company to get a boost from the construction boom in the Southeast. It looks good to go below $22.50.

Please note that due to factors including low market capitalization and/or insufficient public float, we consider Columbus McKinnon to be a small-cap stock. You should be aware that such stocks are subject to more risk than stocks of larger companies, including greater volatility, lower liquidity and less publicly available information, and that postings such as this one can have an effect on their stock prices.

P.S. from Editor-in-Chief, Dave Morrow:
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Jon Markman, writer of Value Investor, is the senior investment strategist and portfolio manager at Greenbook Investment Management, a division of Greenbook Financial Services. Separately, he is publisher of StockTactics Advisor, an independent weekly investment research service. While Markman cannot provide personalized investment advice or recommendations, he appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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